Six megaprojects for the future

Discuss

49 Responses to “Six megaprojects for the future”

  1. joelf says:

    What Sim City had microwave power?

  2. eccentriffic says:

    The Desert Aqua-Net would be awful. Let’s make deserts habitable, all the while destroying a biome where unique creatures and plants live. Aren’t the rain forests bad enough?

    The other projects seem interesting, though.

  3. Viadd says:

    Solar power satellites are not death rays. If you are using 10 cm microwaves, and you want to concentrate them on a spot 10 m across, or 100 wavelengths, you would need a transmitting antenna that appears 1/100 of a radian across as seen from the zorch point,

    That’s about half a degree, which is way too large for a practical solar power satellite. It would have to look as large as the FULL MOON.

  4. bleh.fu says:

    This would be an unfortunate misappropriation of resources, should it happen. Where is humankind going to find this sort of capital to fund projects like this when there are much more simple and practical things that can be done to help alleviate the demand for energy?

  5. Mr. Customer says:

    If you were going to pave the moon with solar panels, why not put it on tracks to collect under perpetual direct sunlight? Two thirds of those panels would be doing nothing or close to nothing all the time. If you’re gonna think big, go all the way.

  6. TalkyMeat says:

    Perhaps a less worrisome use for space-based solar energy would be to power orbital server-farm – and living-space for the people actually running the Orbital Googleplex etc might make a better start for the human colonisation of space than an orbiting hotel providing prepackaged space-experiences for holidaying millionaires.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A project worthy of Dr.Evil

  8. Anonymous says:

    how about use the moon’s solar panel collector thing to power a moon base or science center? why go through all that fuss to build
    the thing on the moon (fly to moon, bring materials by the ton, keep workers there to put it together, feed them keep them safe, test as you go, bring working fuel, make it back safely) why do all that just to send the power back home? keep it local, yo and use that power to provide energy to a moon based facility.

    ohh, because it’s ‘possible?’

    what happens when a terrorist destroys the earth based beam catcher?

    -J

  9. failix says:

    I suck at sciences but I love SF, so I have an issue with their artificial gravity for their space hotel: isn’t a rotation faster than 2rpm supposed to cause some sort of adverse effects from the Coriolis forces? Plus if they only want 0.7g aren’t they risking their customer’s health? I thought the human body didn’t react too well to other than 1g gravitational environments; that’s why astronauts shouldn’t stay in space for too long.

    • Beelzebuddy says:

      I’m not an astrobiologist either, though I’m gay for space as well.

      isn’t a rotation faster than 2rpm supposed to cause some sort of adverse effects from the Coriolis forces?

      Nausea, dizziness. Wikipedia says that below 2rpm everyone gets over it, above 7rpm and no one does. This is only 3rpm, so presumably they can screen out the people who can’t adapt at all back on Earth.

      Plus if they only want 0.7g aren’t they risking their customer’s health?

      Not in the short term (hotel guests), and probably not in the long term (hotel staff). Astronauts are in 0.0g for months on end, which is a whole different ballpark, and even then enough exercise can counteract the bone loss.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is amazing! this would solve the entire worlds food, water, and power problems! With unlimited power we can make food with unlimited power we can make water. we can make clean water we can distribute power! this is an insanely difficult project that needs to be brought to fruition. is our planet capable of doing something this good? Or are we lame regional”not on my turf” fools that deny the possibility of global action to change out planet.

  11. Henry Harris says:

    There are many practical problems with this idea including the enormous cost and creating an additional heat source in an era of global warming. A better idea is mining helium-3 from the Lunar poles to power fusion generators on Earth. Not only would this create a long-term technology that could power the Earth for centuries, it would lay the basis for the practical expansion of human civilization into the solar system thus increasing the odds of long-term survival of the human species.

    • Snig says:

      And we could resupply our deplete helium stocks, which is threatening our critical inflated balloon and blimp industry.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mining the Moon for Helium-3 is potentially useful (obviously we’d need working fusion reactors before even contemplating it!), but the poles would be about the worst place. Lunar Helium-3 comes largely from the solar wind, so it’d likely occur in higher abundance in areas where the angle of solar incidence is high (eg, the equator).

      You might be thinking of the poles because of the unrelated and interesting LCROSS mission, which crashed an Agena rocket booster into the polar regions in search of water.

  12. omarius says:

    If this kind of thing is your bag, I highly recommend The Millennial Project by Marshall Savage–outlining the megaprojects necessary to propel mankind into the larger galaxy.

  13. Roy Trumbull says:

    Free space loss for 250K miles, depending on frequency, is at least 200 dB. It would have to be a real barn burner at the transmit end. Even with a huge transmit dish the beam at the receive site would be quite broad.
    The original concept used a space platform that hovered. I don’t think it was to be geo-stationary.
    Great discussion guys and gals. We must do this more often.

  14. Brother Provisional says:

    I don’t get how they’re going to control the salinity of those man-made saltwater lakes. The idea is to pump a bunch of sea water into the desert so that it evaporates and makes a nice climate, but at the same time provide a habitat for aquatic life like algae and seaweed. As the water evaporates, it will leave behind its NaCl content, as well as any other minerals or pollutants it carries. It just looks like a good way to eventually make a new Salt Lake or Dead Sea to me, and not a whole lot really lives in those bodies of water.

  15. CountZero says:

    None of these projects are really new, most have been postulated in SF stories at some point: the giant pyramid housing 1million people for example, is something le corbusier conceived, and was used in Niven and Pournell’s book ‘Oath Of Fealty’, about a huge arcology in LA.

  16. Werehawk says:

    Well if built it would be very useful as a power source for producing anti matter to fuel spaceships. One could build a truly massive particle collider ring around the Lunar equator to manufacture antimatter.

  17. Duffong says:

    Behold the giant space based microwave to make quick work of the human race once and for all… any any other known form of life.

    • sloverlord says:

      You might want to take a look at a Slashdot story a little while back that talked about “the death ray problem”. I was initially terrified of space-based microwave power transmission, but they explained that microwaves can be transmitted safely using a phased array transmitter, where the microwaves destructively cancel at every point except the receiving dish. And it’s not a matter of some failure-prone switch either: the transmitter is designed so that the laws of physics and wave interference dictate where power can and can’t go.

      Even if this weren’t the case, they wouldn’t transmit at the same frequency as your microwave; since water is only heated by a narrow band of frequencies, if they transmit outside that frequency, you can walk through it just fine.

      On an aside note, something interesting to learn is that during Japan’s huge real-estate boom in the late 80s, some of these megaprojects actually made it to the initial planning stages, and weren’t just pipe dreams. Maybe not the megapyramid in particular, but there were some others a lot like it. They’re all on hold now, of course.

  18. MarkmBha says:

    Are they CRAZY? It could be done, but the cost would be astronomical!

  19. maralenenok says:

    I know, how about a giant orbiting mirror to reflect sunlight back into space and save us from global warming?

  20. DarthVain says:

    Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL power station!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Do you mean that this gigantic moon “belt” will only be fully operational a few days a month, during full moon?

  22. Anonymous says:

    Cool. When I was in 5th grade (1978,) a kid in my class did a presentation on solar power stations on the moon. I remember this very clearly: I asked him, “How would we get the electricity from the moon to the Earth?” Without missing a beat, he replied, “Microwaves.”

    I swear it was no more than two weeks ago I thought about that presentation, and I thought to myself, “What a load of crap. I wonder if the teacher knew he was making stuff up.”

    I’d really like to buy that guy a drink. And I would, if I could get my Pinto past the gate of his opulent estate.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure what benefit they see in placing the power genering facilities on the Moon itself, as opposed to merely mining the material there as Gerard K. O’Neil suggested in The High Frontier”.

    By constructing solar power satellites in geosynch orbit one would immediately just about halve the collection area needed, as they’d be in constant sunlight barring short eclipses.

    Being built in zero-gee, such power stations would have much reduced structural requirements, even allowing for the one-sixth gravity of the Moon. And since they’d be 26,000 vs. 238,000 miles away, transmission losses would be drastically reduced too (inverse square law would apply, I assume)

    The Moon has value as a source of materials, for scientific research and likely other uses, but I don’t think supplying energy to Earth is among them.

  24. Von Haus says:

    The concept of a giant space microwave transmitter worries me quite a lot when combined with the link posted by Ugly Canuck in the first comment of the India Torture Studies post earlier.
    Radiation from cellphones possibly to blame for colony collapse disorder.

  25. Snig says:

    That’s no moon…. It’s a space station!

  26. Roy Trumbull says:

    The microwave power from space is a very old idea dating to the early 1960s. The objections then were just the same. Miss the receive site and it’s a death ray. I never saw any numbers on the conversion efficiencies. While microwave pulse powers can be enormous I think continuous beams at multi megawatt levels are strictly Sci-Fi.

    • Steaming Pile says:

      And to ensure the transmitter hits the receiver, you will have to take into account the Moon’s axial tilt, the eccentricity of its orbit, the angle by which its orbital plane deviates from the plane of Earth’s equator (which itself varies by just over ten degrees), libration, and a host of other likelihoods that would amplify themselves greatly when you consider that the Moon and the Earth are a quarter million miles apart.

    • sloverlord says:

      It’s not a death ray, see my comment above. And the conversion efficiencies (with today’s technology, never mind what could be achieved in the future) for microwave-to-electrical are close to 90%, way better than solar cells.

      • Brainspore says:

        I know that sloverlord is trying to assure us that this thing is safe but it does come on the heels of two other posts involving death rays. Come to think of it, “Sloverlord” sounds like a handle that some death-ray building supervillain would choose. Nice try, you evil bastard.

        dculberson @#8 makes a good point, more energy directed toward earth = net increase in global temperature, which could be a big problem on a scale this size. (The same problem would be had if we mined fuels on other stellar bodies and brought them back here.) Any physics geeks care to figure out how much energy our species could use before we’d have to start building some kind of giant planetary radiator?

  27. Anonymous says:

    This is the 2nd time today I’ve stumbled across this article.

    I stopped reading when I got to the part where they thought one side of the moon ‘always faced’ the sun.

  28. Beelzebuddy says:

    Wow, so much fearmongering and luddism.

    Is there anyone else here who just finds this awesome? None of these projects are in any way practical. It’ll always be easier to burn fossil fuels, urbanize more rural land, and build another suburb the old fashioned way. But these megaprojects aren’t only possible, they’re cool.

    Ya’ll can naysay all you want. My descendants will be chillin’ in a moon hotel, sippin’ Pacific Megacity 1 grown algae cocktails, while yours don’t exist because their great-grandparents figured humanity needed to cut back a bit.

  29. redesigned says:

    pshaw….amateur hour.

    a moon belt is child’s play compared to a dyson sphere.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere

  30. Anonymous says:

    The first idea with the giant solar collectors reminds me a lot of the beginning of iRobot (The book not the film)

  31. dculberson says:

    Wouldn’t any sort of space- or non-earth- based solar result in an increase in global warming? You’re taking an enormous amount of energy and adding it to the energy the Earth is already receiving. In effect, it’s increasing the amount of sunlight that the Earth receives. It might solve any potential fossil fuels shortage but make energy even more costly in terms of environmental damage.

    Even if the microwaves themselves didn’t heat the air, and the conversion process was 100% efficient, the process of consuming the energy itself will generate heat equivalent to the amount of solar energy captured. (Basic thermodynamics.)

    • sloverlord says:

      No: remember that it’s not sunlight being beamed to Earth in extra quantities, but microwave radiation. If it were sunlight, it would be partially in the infrared spectrum, which would contribute to additional heating, but microwaves would not. And since this energy would be offsetting waste heat from burning oil or coal, it would be very much a net positive.

      • Brainspore says:

        No: remember that it’s not sunlight being beamed to Earth in extra quantities, but microwave radiation. If it were sunlight, it would be partially in the infrared spectrum, which would contribute to additional heating, but microwaves would not.

        Any device that you could conceivably use electricity to power would produce some quantity of heat, the only question is how much.

        • sloverlord says:

          But remember that any electricity that we get from this method is electricity that we’re NOT getting by burning coal or oil. Since the heat produced by actually using the electricity is the same no matter where it comes from, the only difference is in the generation itself, and so the question becomes: is generating energy through microwave power transmission more efficient, in terms of waste heat per unit of useful power, than oil or coal or anything else? And the answer is a definitive yes (see my first post).

          So, yes, of course there’s waste heat, you can’t break the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But there’s less waste heat than with most other forms of power generation.

          • Brainspore says:

            It’s a better idea than depending on fossil fuels but I still say that on a long term, planetary scale the only way to avoid the “heat problem” is to get by on the energy that already makes it to our planet rather than importing more from elsewhere.

            Granted, I’m talking about a time scale of centuries here… but so are the people proposing these engineering projects.

          • sloverlord says:

            What I’m saying is that there is no “heat problem”: global warming is occurring because the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is prevent terrestrial longwave radiation from escaping, not because of the waste heat produced by human activities. The total amount of power incident on the Earth’s surface from the sun is about 2 times 10^17 watts; the power we use as a species is a miniscule fraction of that (estimated at 2 times 10^13 watts). Beaming more power to Earth to supplement our energy usage is not going to even come close to the amount of power the Sun shines on us every day.

          • Brainspore says:

            Like I said, I’m not talking about our current global warming problem, which projects like this one could alleviate. I’m talking about an as-yet nonexistent problem that would be the (very) long-term result of bringing massive amounts of extra energy to earth.

            Forget the amount of energy we use today, I’m thinking about the amount of energy used by whatever futuristic society needs a 6,800-mile solar belt encompassing the moon.

      • dculberson says:

        It doesn’t matter what form the energy is in when it’s sent to earth, it is still additional energy input beyond what the Earth receives right now. Additional energy that will be converted to heat at some point.

        I see your point in comment # 19 and that’s a good one. Coal, for example, is only 30% efficient at the power plant, so assuming 90% efficiency for the Earth portions of the moon based solar, this system would reduce net heat output by 60%. Plus there would be no carbon dioxide to act as a greenhouse gas. So it would be a gain compared to fossil fuels, but it still has a down side.

    • ahroogahh says:

      Ummm… no. The problem causing global warming is not the heat we create from our engines and machines. It’s the greenhouse gasses which are produced by combustion.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s a really interesting idea – but the Earth isn’t a closed system, right? Heat can be radiated out into space. It is also not a given that any energy on Earth will end up as heat in the atmosphere.

    • bassplayinben says:

      Clarke predicted this in his book “Hammer Of The Gods” … wish I could remember how he proposed to solve the problem.

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